Tuesday, August 7, 2012

XXQC - Daiquiri

Ask the average person to envision/describe a Daiquiri and very good odds can be placed on the answer lying within the realm of a sweet, fruity, slushy drink served in a long stemmed, flared-lip glass with a straw and some type of fruit wedge garnish.  It is, in a word...sad...for the original composition of the Daiquiri could be nothing further from that which gushes from the constantly spinning ice machines filled with syrup/sour mix, and cheap booze.  Simple, crisp, and clean, the perfect balance of rum, fresh lime, and sugar (ex the slushy ice) makes the Daiquiri a cocktail that many should re-consider, or rather introduce themselves to altogether...another of the XXQC.  

While this post is a few weeks tardy for 'National Daiquiri Day' (July 19th), there should be no need to await a particular day to celebrate this classic cocktail.  Common to many of my other posts which delve into the historical origin(s) of the tipple at hand, here is one potential take on the origin of the Daiquiri.  Cuba, 1905...an American mining engineer by the name of Jennings Cox is entertaining guests at home and subs rum for gin in a concoction containing fresh lime juice and sugar.  The town?  Daiquiri, of course, just outside of Santiago.  And so it was born. Or was it really that simple?  Perhaps...I guess...but quite possibly, not likely.  Think about it...with rum, limes, and sugarcane all native to Cuba, it certainly doesn't take much imagination to think that others had, either out of chance or necessity, composed drinks with these same ingredients and relative proportions.  In fact many attribute the birth of the Daiquiri to a barkeep in Santiago several years prior.  Or even further, go back to the mid 1700s when the Royal Navy began providing daily rations of rum, water, citrus (lemon or lime) and sugar to their men...making it even less conceivable that it wasn't until the 1900s that the Daiquiri, at least in some form, came into existence.
Nevertheless, we do know that the popularity of this classic was spurred by Lucius Johnson, a US naval officer who brought the recipe back to the United States in 1909.  Over the next 20-30 years, the Daiquiri grew quite significantly, thanks in large part to President Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy.  Albeit established for other political and economic intentions, this policy essentially encouraged travel and trade with Latin American countries and the islands of the Caribbean, thereby increasing the popularity of, oh, say...rum.  The Daiquri was even further popularized after the acclaim bestowed upon it by figures such as John F. Kennedy and, of course, Ernest Hemingway.  In fact, Hemingway was such the admirer that after his introduction to the cocktail at El Floridita bar in Havana (and many subsequent visits), then bartender Constante Ribailagua created a variation of the classic dubbed...'The Hemingway'.  Ironically enough, Ribailagua (who was said to have spent significant effort in perfecting his Daiquiri) is also the one credited with the first original creation of the frozen Daiquiri.  That said, odds are good that he would cringe at today's interpretation of the same.  His original recipe actually called for the ingredients (rum, lime juice, sugar, and ice) to be blended in an electric mixer but then to be strained, rather than served as a slushy.  A small step that makes a world of difference in the final product.

Given the vast selection of different rums (ages, islands, raw ingredients, blends, etc), Daiquiri recipes (much like many others) should vary based on the overall profile of the spirit.  Accordingly, unaged rums, often possessing less sweetness, should typically be paired with a higher relative amount of sugar to preserve the balance and profile of a proper 'sour' cocktail.  Similarly, an aged rum may well need significantly less sugar to maintain the same.  While equally Daiquiris, the these two may differ substantially from one another based simply on the type of rum used in preparation, and further tweaked for personal preference.  I have found a very good starting point is a recipe highlighted by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, sourced/adapted from Difford's 10:3:2 ratio.

2 1/2 oz aged rum
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled, double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

And perhaps one of my favorite variations with a subtle tweak of grapefruit and maraschino, the aforementioned Hemingway Daiquiri.

Hemingway Daiquiri
2 oz white rum
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur

Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled, double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

In contemplation of a riff on the Daiquiri, in honor of my wife and new mother, I chose a bottle of pineapple infused rhum (Manutea) that we picked up on our honeymoon in Moorea, French Polynesia.  As she loves the combination of pineapple and orange, I subbed Cointreau for a bit of the simple syrup and added a touch of spice with black peppercorn tincture to give this cocktail a bit more distinction.  While simply a modified Daiquiri in no certain need of a distinguished name, as a tribute to the tireless hours she spends feeding and caring for our daughter, I felt compelled to give it one, rather appropriate in nature...

Two Hour Shift
2 1/2 oz Manutea rhum, pineapple
3/4 oz lime juice
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 dashes black peppercorn tincture*

Shake all ingredients with ice until well chilled, double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.  Garnish with wide swath of orange zest.  

Black peppercorn tincture*
2 oz whole black peppercorns
6 oz neutral grain spirit (Everclear)

Combine ingredients in non-reactive vessel and let sit at room temperature for 3-4 weeks, shaking once daily.  Alternatively, heat sous vide water bath to 170F, combine ingredients in heat-proof bag, and let steep/infuse for 3-4 hours.  Strain and store in clean container. 

Two Hour Shift

And there you have it, the Daiquiri, a simple yet sophisticated cocktail which showcases the many diverse iterations of rum...don't wait for the next 'National Daiquiri Day' to give a shot at this XXQC if you haven't done so already.  Cheers!


  1. This is one of my favorite go-to cocktails. I enjoy 10 Cane rum with a 2oz, 3/4, 1/2 oz ratio. Funny my wife really enjoys these with pineapple infused rum. Congrats on your baby girl, ours still keeps us up 18 months later, ha!

    1. Thanks Scott - 10 Cane is solid, perhaps two of my recent favorites are El Dorado 15yr and Banks 5 Island for either an aged or relative unaged Daiquiri. No question a fantastic, and still under-appreciated, cocktail. Daughter doing well and expect she'll keep us up for months to come, cheers!

    2. Zach, I wanted to ask you what basic techniques you use for your cocktail pics. I have a terrible time taking hi quality shots and I use a Nikon DSLR camera. Any help would be appreciated, cheers.

    3. I am no pro by any means but the two most useful/helpful things I would suggest are to use a small aperture more often than not and speedlite (I use a Canon and have the 430EX). In addition, a small tripod as well as a reflective surface (I use a large piece of white foam board) can help create different/directional lighting. Playing off reflective surfaces is more a composition-type technique but can create some neat effects as well. Hope that helps some-